Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last week it all kicked off. Running and fighting and poisoning and stabbing and dying and magic and more dying and RAAAAAISTLIN. This time, Caramon confronts his twin, Berem faces his twin, and Tanis heads into the darkness…
“Jasla calls” and “The Debt Repaid”
Raistlin! No, really—it’s Raistlin! Thin and powerful and dressed in black velvet. He is, it seems, the last guardian who must be passed to reach their goal. Caramon is distraught, Berem is insisting they get to Jasla, and Raistlin says… hmm. Why yes, he does indeed wear the black robes now, but he suggests that their main concern should be the very, very bad situation they’re in.
He assures them that Berem is not immortal and that the Dark Queen will destroy him and his sister and be able to enter Kyrnn in her full glory. Caramon doesn’t quite get it, so Raistlin explains further: in a few steps, Berem will be reunited with Jasla, who has been waiting in agony all these years for him to free her from her torment.
Once that happens, the Queen will be sent howling back to the Abyss, the door to Krynn will be shut once again, and the Temple of Istar (which is where they are, ooh!) will fall.
Caramon now understands that he must get past Raistlin to get Berem to where he needs to be.
But… that ain’t happening. Raistlin throws a ball of flame at him. Caramon flounders, is bitten by baby dragons. Berem is frozen in place, yelling for Jasla. Raistlin reminds everyone that he is powerful and will become more so when the Dark Queen is gone. And that they exist in the shadow of his mercy, etc. etc. He frees Berem. He then reminds Caramon that this is happening only because he allows it happen. Just in case he missed it. Berem and Jasla face each other. Berem asks for forgiveness. They fall into each others arms.
What also happens is that Berem falls into the jagged pillar and impales himself. He shudders and convulses and bleeds all over the place. And then he dies.
Meanwhile, back where Tanis is: chaos. First a hobgoblin tries to attack him, then Lord Soth’s entire army. As Tanis starts to run, the ceiling collapses. Then the floor starts to cave in. The Dark Queen gets angry. Draconians stumble. The Temple of Istar falls.
Back with the twins, Raistlin pulls out the dragon orb. Caramon asks to be killed. Raistlin says he will save his life this one time, but, after that—they are even. He also agrees to save the others… except Tanis (Editors’ note: HA!), whom he feels he has already repaid tenfold. Raistlin tells Caramon that he will never need his brother again, and does a cool spell that flattens all the goblins and draconians and dark clerics and even other Black Robes. Raistlin’s power is massive, and the Black Robes end up bowing to him. When it is finally time to leave, Caramon must lean on his brother to walk.
Meanwhile the Hall of Audience is now split wide. Tanis is trying to find Laurana, who is fighting draconians. She bids him farewell and vanishes, because, while she may owe him her life, she does not owe him her soul. Tanis is bitter and heads into the darkness himself.
Back with the Twins, and they find Tika is hurt, but not dead, but Tas is thoroughly poisoned. Raistlin saves Tas, reminding everyone that he has now repaid his debts in full. Back to full annoying capacity, Tas, the hurt-but-alive Tika, the slightly-drained Raistlin and the very-wounded Caramon head onwards.
“But now you are in a very bad situation, my brother.”
You don’t say, Raistlin, you don’t say.
No longer forced to whisper, the mage yet found whispering more compelling.
That Raistlin, he’s so dramatic right now.
Monster(s) of the Week
- A hobgoblin.
- Baby dragons.
- Lord Soth.
- Evil clerics and Black Robes.
Wow, so much action! Such quick scene changes and all this high drama tossed in with the fight scenes. I do enjoy it when things get tightly strung together like this; when lots happens in very short chapters. Berem has met his end, he’s sealed the door, the evil world is collapsing, the Queen is… vanquished? Is she, just yet? Nevermind, we’re well on our way to saving the world, aren’t we? Even if one of us has gone to the dark, velvety side, we are pretty much there. Phew. That was exhausting.
Cut me some slack here, because it’s been a tough week, but what was Caramon’s goal, exactly, at the start? He has to get Berem to… safety? Jasla, who is actually dead? The bedazzled pillar stump? It’s all a bit messy in my head. Why, for instance, does Raistlin have to smote? Smite? Caramon with a fireball in order to let Berem fulfil his destiny? My feeling is, Raistlin is just mean. Even when he’s saving them all, he makes sure they know that he’s doing this because he’s the greatest and because they’re useless and because he wants to be free of any debt to them. I do think he has a soft spot for his brother, but then… am I wrong? I’m so undecided about this… he loves him or does he just owe him, big time? He knocks him down with a fireball into a pit of snarling baby dragons pretty much just to prove that he can, when he could have frozen him, though even that was unnecessary, given they both wanted the same thing. Raistlin, though he may now be the most powerful of the mages, is basically a petty little brother, isn’t he?
Even so, how cool is he, with his spells?! He brings Tas back from death’s door! Even though he hates the annoying little Kender! #TeamRaistlin!
Aside: Jasla is in self-imposed torment? Yet she’s been waiting to be freed? But didn’t Berem kill her? Yeah, I don’t get it either, Caramon.
Thinking about Mahvesh’s questions… I wonder if, narratively-speaking, it has to be Caramon. First, for the dramatic tension of Raistlin being the last barrier. And second, because he’s the dumb one. You can see any of the others—even Tas or Tanis—questioning Berem’s blind, reckless charge. Caramon, however, is very happy to play sidekick; even when he has no idea what the quest is.
But it really is about the dramatic tension, isn’t it? Raistlin’s clearly been waiting his whole life for this moment—not just blasting down the enemies, but doing so in front of his brother. Flinging his brother about with magic, to show how much stronger he is. And this really is all about strength: perhaps the defining moment is when Caramon leans on him, rather than the other way around.
This also goes a lot to showing what makes for good writin’. Raistlin and Caramon are having a one-sided shouting match in an empty room, for a goal that no one really understands. Meanwhile, Tanis is fighting the entirety of the dragonarmies, in a collapsing room, with a shrieking goddess, two love interests, an army of the undead, and a very clear objective (capture the crown). But more, as we learn, isn’t always better. I’m not saying that Caramon’s scenes are a masterpiece of lean writing, but there’s a real, primal tension that comes from two characters doing something characterful. Even a templeful of undead can’t beat it.
I’m glad Tika made it. One thing that’s surprised me about this reading is that I’ve enjoyed the evolution of her character. In a few scenes (none in this chapter) she’s still… uncomfortably sexualised in a particular ‘girl next door / sexxxy virgin’ way… but setting that aside, it has been fun to witness how she’s grown from witness to sidekick to love interest to fully-fledged member of the team, with her own contribution to make. Not entirely unlike Laurana.
Also, is anyone having a worse day than Tanis right now? I mean, besides all the dead people.
Mahvesh loves dystopian fiction & appropriately lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes about stories & interviews writers the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi when not wasting much too much time on Twitter.